There is nothing more disconcerting than the place you frequent weekly dealing with an E. coli contamination crisis. The fact that over 50 people in nine states got the same strain is infuriating; considering that it wasn't the first time an outbreak was traced back to Chipotle makes it all the more inexcusable. If it happened to me, I wouldn't be caught within a few city blocks of another Chipotle, no matter how many free burritos you offer me.
But it didn't happen to me, and I'm going back.
The first reason is the obvious one: It's still the best fast food game in town. Seriously, does anybody even remember what lunch was like before Chipotle? Do you recall waiting in line for those sad cold cuts and pre-shredded lettuce at Subway? What about convincing yourself Taco Bell was the healthiest option within ten miles? And sure, it's nice to be able to pick and choose whatever you want from the hot bar because you're an adult and that’s what adults do, but I don't think the glass caught the bulk of that guy's sneeze. You're going to have to risk getting some gross germs or that last slice of lasagna that looks like it's been baking too long.
Look, I know that there are plenty of healthy options at fast food places, but Chipotle has a lot of those places beat when it comes to healthier food that actually tastes good. If I'm going to McDonald's or White Castle, the whole point is to eat something that isn't good for me. I'm not going to Wendy's because I’m watching my figure, so I'd rather keep my comfort food to myself and not eat it before I have another soul-crushing meeting. I've worked hard to perfect my Chipotle ordering system, I'm not ready to give it up just yet.
More importantly, there's the matter of history and that food gets contaminated. Sure, it isn't always on the scale of what happened with Chipotle last year, or the 1993 Jack in the Box E. coli outbreak that left four children dead and 178 with permanent injuries from kidney to brain damage. But contamination happens. The disgusting facts range from some guy forgot to wear his gloves, or it's something that’s living inside of the animal. And it certainly isn't limited to Chipotle; the food you buy at the grocery store can just as easily be contaminated — from your bagged greens to your everyday bottled spices.
None of this is meant to absolve Chipotle, of course. They're to blame for this catastrophe that they still can't figure out the origin of, and they lost a ton of money because of it. But Chipotle will learn from its mistakes. There will surely be even stricter food-handling guidelines set in place that go beyond the state or city ones each store has to follow, and the $10 million dollar investment in local farmers they’ve made is less a peace offering to customers, and more a way to help ease the burden those local farmers might incur if they want to keep supplying the chain and their new DNA-based testing of fresh meat and produce.
Ultimately Chipotle will be fine, barring they get another customer sick in the near future. The chain has been at the forefront of the new school of higher-quality fast-casual places over the last decade, and as horrible of a thing as an E. coli outbreak is, it will probably result in an even better place to get that chicken burrito. Frankly, that's all I care about. (That, and hopefully they start treating their employees a bit better.) Get me a decent burrito and don't get me sick, and we will get along just fine.